Kimberly Balsam, PhD, Honored with Distinguished Contribution to Education and Training Award

August 9, 2021
Kimberly Balsam, Professor
 
Palo Alto University professor Kimberly Balsam, PhD, is the recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Contribution to Education and Training from American Psychological Association Division 44. She will be presented with the award at a division meeting on August 14.
 
Div. 44: Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity “focuses on the diversity of human sexual orientations by supporting research, promoting relevant education, and affecting professional and public policy." The Division offers the Distinguished Contribution to Education and Training Award to colleagues “who have distinguished themselves in disseminating science and scholarship on LGBT issues."
 
Dr. Balsam is a professor in the PAU Department of Psychology, Director of the LGBTQ Area of Emphasis, and Director of the Center for LGBTQ Evidence-Based Applied Research (CLEAR)
 
Jayme Peta, PhD, nominated Dr. Balsam for the award and noted how her many roles contribute to the education and training of future psychologists: “Kimberly’s leadership in this area is astounding in that it works on multiple levels of advancing education and training of LGBTQ psychology. From individual students to institutions; training academics of every level to making LGBTQ psychology freely available to the public; and from disseminating theory to training in on-the-ground, practical skills, Kimberly represents the ideal in seeing “education and training” as a broad, lifelong effort made for the benefit of all.”
 
Balsam considers APA’s Division 44 to be her professional home, ever since she was an applicant to doctoral programs in the 1990s. She is a past president of the division, she currently co-chairs the division’s Task Force on Sexism and Cissexism, serves on the Leadership Equity and Diversity workgroup, and she was the 2010 recipient of their Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.  
 
This Distinguished Contribution Award has another level of meaning too. “It’s particularly meaningful,” Dr. Balsam said, “to be nominated for the award by Dr. Peta, who is my former doctoral advisee and current colleague in the PhD program at PAU. Since I’ve been at PAU, I’ve mentored 16 doctoral advisees to completion of the PhD, all of whom are out there in the world sharing their knowledge and experience with LGBTQ+ populations. Being a part of their educational journey is one of the things I am most proud of in my career!”
 
Dr. Balsam notes that the need for culturally competent clinicians is significant. While many LGBTQ+ people seek mental health services at some point in their life, they also have far too many harmful experiences. “Even experiences that are not specifically harmful,” she said, “may not be truly helpful in the way that they can and should be.  It’s not enough to simply be non-judgmental or open-minded.  Working effectively with LGBTQ+ populations demand specific skills and knowledge, and unfortunately, most clinicians did not receive this in their graduate training.”
 
Dr. Balsam says it is her mission to train and prepare the clinical workforce to serve the needs of LGBTQ+ populations. And much of her work is rooted at PAU. “The students who participate in the LGBTQ+ Area of Emphasis, take my LGBTQ+ Issues in Psychotherapy course, train at our Sexual and Gender Identities clinic, or conduct research through CLEAR will go on to make valuable contributions in their professional roles after graduation.”  
 
But Balsam is working in the community as well. “I’m also starting to ramp up my efforts to provide training and education about LGBTQ+ affirmative therapy outside of my formal role as a professor.  Along with Dr. Peta and three other colleagues, I have a partnership with Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services to conduct a 40-hour, intensive training with master’s level clinicians who work in the public sector.”
 
Her vision does not stop here, though. Dr. Balsam would like to see training in LGBTQ+ cultural competence required for all clinicians to obtain licensure. She hopes to develop a post-graduate certificate program for clinicians who did not receive LGBTQ+-specific training in their formal education. And she would like to increase the cultural competence of researchers in relation to LGBTQ+ issues. 
 
It is clear how Dr. Balsam was selected for the 2021 Distinguished Contribution to Education and Training. Her work goes beyond “contribution” and extends to passion and commitment. 
 
“I hope that I have made a meaningful contribution to the education and training of students and trainees,” she said. “Every student I work with will go on and pay it forward, undoubtedly making a difference in the lives of future LGBTQ+ clients, students, supervisees, and colleagues.”